SB 827 Amendments: Strengthening Demolition & Displacement Protections

When I introduced Senate Bill 827 — my bill to allow more housing near public transportation — I was clear that I would have an open door and actively seek feedback to make the bill as strong and effective as it can be. SB 827 is an impactful bill, and we want to ensure that all voices are at the table and that issues that need to be addressed are addressed.

Since introducing the bill in early January, we have had a strong start, with significant support for our goal of allowing more people to live near public transportation and thus reducing carbon emissions and gridlock and making housing more affordable. We have also heard from critics and people who are undecided but who have concerns and questions. Those willing to engage have provided very constructive feedback, which we greatly appreciate and have worked to incorporate into the bill.

Today, I am introducing a series of amendments to the bill, largely, but not entirely, concerning issues of displacement and affordability. These amendments make the bill even stronger, and I appreciate the work that has gone into them. These are just the first round of amendments, and there will be future amendments as well, as we move through the committee process. Here’s a summary of the amendments we’re making today:

  1. SB 827 explicitly defers to and preserves local demolition controls and limitations, meaning that if a local community restricts or bans demolitions, SB 827 will not change that local determination. From the beginning, SB 827 implicitly kept local demolition controls in place. Some expressed concern that the bill did not do so explicitly, so we are making explicit what was implicit: If a local government bans the demolition of any kind of housing — whether it’s rent-controlled housing, historic buildings, or any other kind of housing — then the building cannot be demolished under SB 827. Moreover, if a community stops short of banning demolitions and instead has a process to evaluate demolition permits — for example, requiring sign off by its Planning Commission or City Council — those controls also remain in place under SB 827. So, in short, whatever a local community decides about restricting or banning demolitions, SB 827 will not change that decision.
Four story buildings on a neighborhood street in San Francisco — the kind of buildings allowed under SB 827 at 45 foot height limits

2. SB 827 places special protections around rent-controlled housing. Keeping people stable in their rent-controlled homes has always been a priority for me as a local elected official and now as a Senator, and preserving rent-controlled housing is key to ensuring this stability. If a local community bans the demolition of rent-controlled housing (or places strict and difficult-to-meet process requirements around such a permit), SB 827 honors that local determination. Moreover, if a local community does allow demolitions of rent-controlled housing, SB 827 bans such demolitions for SB 827 projects unless the city council certifies via resolution that it will review demolition permits for rent-controlled housing, outlines the process by which those reviews will occur, and certifies that any demolition permit issued will have a Right to Remain Guarantee for tenants (described in more detail in the next section). Right to Remain provides that if a tenant is displaced due to a demolition, the developer must house the tenant nearby at the same rent while the project is being built *and* must provide a comparable unit to the tenant at the same rent once the project is done. Again, if a local community does not allow demolition of rent-controlled units, SB 827 will not affect that determination. And, even if a local community allows such demolitions, SB 827 nevertheless bans these demolition permits unless the local community adopts a local policy after SB 827 passes making clear to the public what the process will be for reviewing and issuing demolition permits, including a Right to Remain Guarantee for tenants.

3. SB 827 bans the demolition of all renter-occupied housing for SB 827 projects unless a Right to Remain Guarantee is granted for all existing tenants, including full financial assistance for all moving costs and rental payments while the project is under construction. If a local government does not certify that all of these requirements have been met, no demolition permits for SB 827 projects may be issued for the rental housing. Once a Right to Remain Guarantee has been certified for every affected tenant, a demolition permits may be issued if the local community allows such demolitions. This Right to Remain Guarantee must, at minimum, provide all of the following, at the developer’s expense:

  • All moving expenses for a tenants moving into, and out of, an interim unit in the area while the project is being built.
  • Up to 42 months of rental assistance that covers the full rent of an available, comparable unit in the area.
  • Right of first refusal for housing units in the new building, and offered with a new lease at the rent previously enjoyed by the tenant in their demolished unit

We need to make sure that tenants of all income levels, but particularly low and moderate income people, directly and immediately benefit from new, transit-oriented development in their neighborhoods. A Right to Remain Guarantee ensures that tenants receive assistance in securing a temporary unit, full and complete financial assistance during project construction, and — most importantly — inclusion in the new development at an affordable rent.

4. Local inclusionary housing requirements apply to all projects proposed under SB 827. The amendments make explicit what was implicit in SB 827: that SB 827 does not in any way change local inclusionary housing requirements (i.e., where developers are required to provide a percentage of units as affordable to low or moderate income residents). Whatever a local community’s inclusionary housing program is, that program will apply to SB 827 projects. As the San Francisco Planning Department noted in a recent analysis, that means that SB 827 will lead to a greater number of affordable units since larger projects lead to more inclusionary units.

Building that would be allowed under the 85 foot threshold under SB 827

5. Local inclusionary programs that meet the goals of SB 827 will remain in effect, and parcels subject to those programs will still be required to meet the affordability requirements of the program. The goal of SB 827 is to create more housing near transit, particularly in areas currently zoned for low-density. But nothing in SB 827 is intended to prevent a local government or voter initiative from creating an inclusionary housing program linked to high-density transit-oriented housing. For example, Los Angeles recently adopted the Transit Oriented Communities (TOC) Guidelines through Measure JJJ which increases height and density in certain areas near transit (i.e., SB 827’s goal) and links to those density increases to inclusionary housing requirements, parking waivers, and other changes to traditional zoning. As many of the areas rezoned under TOC are near transit, they technically fall under the purview of SB 827. These parcels will still be required to meet the local affordability requirements under the TOC because they are already being upzoned in a way that encourages affordability and will create more housing. At the same time, many areas in Los Angeles aren’t subject to Prop JJJ’s TOC Guidelines but are still adjacent to transit. These parcels, many of which are low-density housing very close to transit, will be subject to SB 827.

6. A project must be within ¼ mile of a transit *stop* on a high frequency transit corridor to trigger SB 827. The goal of SB 827 is to provide housing in transit-accessible areas, which means within walking distance of a fixed rail stop or bus line that runs at a minimum of 15 minute intervals during peak hours. My intent has always been to measure the distance from stops, not the areas in between stops; after all, if two stops are five miles apart and a parcel is exactly halfway between the two, the parcel isn’t transit-adjacent since you board at stops and not along transit corridors. However, the language of the bill was ambiguous, so we are amending it to make clear that the measurement is from stops only.

A full list of the amendments can be found here.

This first set of amendments is the start of a long process for this bill, and we have more work to do. But the bill is moving in a good direction, and I truly appreciate the feedback we have received to date. Keep it coming.